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Top Albanian Horse Riding

This trail combines a challenging riding experience in different landscapes with many possibilities of swimming in rivers, river hiking, canyon exploring, camping, sharing time and accommodation with local people, visiting rare cultural monuments, meeting monuments of Albania’s communist dictatorship past. Local traditional food, famous Permeti Raki, and wine tasting, livestock rituals and city nightlife will make this trail very diverse in experiences.

Key Information

  • Rider Weight Limit: 176 pounds / 80 kilograms
  • Horse Breed: Local breed mix of Tarpan and Arab Horses

Highlights

  • 9 days of riding
  • Ride on reliable and strong horses
  • Approximate daily riding time: 3.5 - 6 hours
  • Explore medieval villages, towers, churches, and caravan pathways
  • Ride through the forest, mountains, valleys, cliffs, and water streams
  • Experience sheep milking process and traditional cookings
  • 11 nights accommodation in tents or local family's houses
  • Daily meals and drinks will be provided

Styles


9 days with instruction in English
The organizer also speaks: Greek, Italian
Group size: Maximum of 10 participants
Airport transfer available:
Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (US$ 76 per person)
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Accommodation

Check-in Time:
15:00
Check-out Time:
10:00

You will be accommodated in local or family guesthouses as well as camping every night. It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on night 1 and night 7 of the trail, but riders must be prepared to share accommodation with the same gender on the other nights.

Program

On this horse riding tour, you will meet River Vjosa, the last wild river in Europe, riding along it, and camping in the river bed is the most beautiful experience of this trail. Vjosa “the blue heart” of Europe along its entire course of over 270 kilometers is untamed, free-flowing, and characterized by beautiful canyons, braided river sections, islands, oxbows, and meandering stretches. Vjosa River is one of the most complex habitats for spawning fish and migratory birds.

Itinerary

Day 1

Arrive at Tirana airport ideally in the morning, but no later than 14.30. This allows time for the transfer and an opportunity to explore the town of Gjirokstra. The drive to Gjirokastra takes approximately 3 hours. Settle into your hotel, which is conveniently located just a 10-minute walk from the historic center of Gjirokstra.

Before dinner, take a stroll around the historical town, including the old Bazaar, and visit notable attractions such as Enver Hoxha's house, Gjirokastra castle, the church of the Old Bazaar, and Skenduli house, offering insights into traditional Gjirokastra life.

Enjoy a traditional dinner at a local restaurant, where your guides will provide information about the trail, address any inquiries, offer advice, and share useful details. We recommend purchasing a map of the area before dinner to familiarize yourself with the itinerary.

Day 2

After breakfast at the hotel and horse allocation, embark on your ride through the countryside towards the medieval village of Karjan. This village holds a traditional charm and once served as a rural stop for passing caravans. Admire its small churches and the old Roman bridge.

The route traverses a rural landscape, passing by small houses, gardens, and traditional farming activities. Expect a mix of hilly landscapes, valleys, small water streams, and cliffs. Along the way, catch glimpses of the "Tree of Life" river, the important water basin in the area associated with ancient pagan beliefs.

Encounter the ruins of the castle of Santa Triada, reconstructed by Ali Pasha in 1809-1810 as a strategic point for controlling caravan routes. The castle ruins were later utilized for military purposes during the socialist era.

Pause for lunch in Shen Toder village, and after another 1.5 hours of riding, reach Karjan village where you'll be hosted by a local family. Experience the local cuisine, prepared from their own garden produce, and indulge in raki and wine.

  • Riding hours: 4.5

Day 3

After breakfast, we'll start our ride through the picturesque Drino's Valley. Our first stops will be Andon Poci village and later Hundkuq village, where the ride becomes more challenging as we enter a small forest. Emerging from the forest, we'll reach the historic village of Labova of Zhapa, renowned for its magnificent Church and grand merchant houses, although most of them now lie in ruins.

Labova is also the birthplace of Vangjel Zhapa, a famous businessman and philanthropist who lived around 200 years ago. We'll enjoy a visit inside the unique medieval church, known for its distinctive style and pagan elements in the wall paintings.

Afterward, we'll start riding up the mountain, marveling at the rare vegetation and endemic plants along the way. The path will lead us to the valley of Cajupi, where we'll encounter a cattle of 1000 sheep. This scenic spot will be our camping place for the night, offering the chance to taste the famous Brati spring water, witness a small medieval protection tower called "karakoll" and experience sheep milking and cooking with the shepherds.

Please note that depending on the day's temperatures, the guides may opt for a shorter path to Cajupi valley and plan an afternoon ride in the surrounding mountains.

  • Riding hours: 5

Day 4

After enjoying a delicious traditional breakfast, our trail will follow the medieval Caravan pathway, passing by the infamous bandit hideout known as "Hija e Mallkuar" or "The Cursed Shadow". This pathway was once used by medieval thieves to ambush caravans traveling through Zagoria.

Continuing our ride, we'll traverse the most important horse pathway of the 17th and 18th centuries, which connected the major commercial centers of Southern Albania. Along the way, we'll be treated to the breath-taking view of the natural monument, the Rock of Zhej.

Prepare for a challenging downhill route that will lead us to the ruins of a medieval stone bridge, where we'll enjoy a lunch break and a refreshing swim in the nearby river. In the afternoon, we'll make our way to the Church of the Monastery of Nivan, constructed in 1702, and cross a symbolic bridge over the Zagoria River to conclude the day's ride in Nderan, one of the region's significant villages. We'll spend the evening and night with a welcoming local family.

  • Total riding hours: 3.5

Day 5

Today's ride will begin with a return to Hoshteva and a mountain climb to reach the Gjurmemushka mountain pass. Once we reach the summit, we'll mostly enjoy a downhill ride, passing through Maleshova village to visit its charming church and the ruins of the Limari antic castle. We'll pause for a picnic lunch near a tranquil water stream, where we can rest under the shade of the trees. During the afternoon ride, we'll be rewarded with stunning views of the Vjosa River from the mountaintop.

Our overnight stay will be in a comfortable village guest house in Grabova village, a remote and isolated area known for its warm hospitality. Here, you can experience the traditional mountain cooking and savour the famous "petanik", a special local pie.

Grabova is renowned for its Raki production and delectable "spoon" desserts. In the evening, we'll enjoy dinner on the guest house's terrace, overlooking the magnificent flow of the Vjosa River just 200 meters away.

  • Riding hours: 6-7

Day 6

After a satisfying breakfast, we'll embark on a downhill ride to reach the Vjosa River. The rest of the day's ride will take place along the river bank, offering breath-taking and diverse landscapes. This leg of the journey will be particularly enjoyable, with ample opportunities for exhilarating gallops. We'll pause for a swimming break near Piskova village, taking advantage of the dry part of the river bed.

For lunch, we'll relish in the delicious food prepared by a small restaurant in Permet, which will be conveniently transported to our riverside stop. If interested, you can also indulge in some fishing. Spend the entire afternoon swimming and relaxing before riding the final 1.5 hours to reach the small town of Permet.

After settling the horses at the accommodation, we'll spend the night in a nearby hotel, just a short 10-minute walk from the town center. Dinner will be served at a well-known traditional restaurant.

  • Riding hours: 3

Day 7

This day is a free riding day, allowing you to choose your own adventure. We suggest a visit to the Benja thermal waters in the Langarica canyons, a mere 30 minutes away from Permet. There, you can explore the canyons, swim, and for the more daring, engage in river hiking to discover the "Pigeons Cave" perched on a rock along the Langarica River.

We have arranged lunch at a restaurant near the canyons, and we'll return to Permeti town in the late afternoon. Dinner will be served at a small restaurant close to the hotel. Alternatively, if you prefer to rest and relax, you're free to create your own plan for the day.

  • Riding hours: None (but taking care of the horses is required)

Day 8

Prepare for one of the longest and most challenging days of our journey. Due to branches and foliage, it's advisable to wear long sleeves. We'll embark on a mostly uphill ride, climbing Dhembel Mountain. The panoramic view from the top will leave you awestruck. We'll carry a picnic lunch in our saddles since the car cannot reach us until the final destination later in the day.

Our rendezvous point will be in Hoshteva Zagoria, where logistic arrangements await us. We'll camp beneath the trees near Hoshteva's church, and as a group, we'll collaborate to cook dinner and enjoy a memorable meal under the starlit sky. This camping experience will be truly enchanting.

  • Riding hours: 6

Day 9

Get ready for an exhilarating equestrian adventure this morning. After a fresh country-style breakfast, we'll ride through a mountain valley that's perfect for gallops. Along the way, we'll pass small remote farms, awe-inspiring cliffs, and numerous historical paths off the beaten tourist trail.

Our route through the Pogoni region will transport us through time, passing ancient ruins and mythical natural wonders. We'll enjoy a picnic lunch near the famous stone bridge of Hllomo or Kacarello's, an isolated construction from the merchant period accessible only by horse. In the afternoon, we'll reach the heart of the Pogon region, the mountain village of Polican, inhabited by a Greek minority.

You'll spend the night with a Greek minority family, who will accompany you to explore remarkable cult monuments from the medieval period. In the evening, you'll indulge in local gastronomic delights, including a variety of honey flavors, as this village is renowned for its mountain honey production, offering up to 10 different seasonal tastes.

  • Riding hours: 6

Day 10

This riding day offers a blend of changing landscapes and varying riding paces. You'll traverse wide valleys, navigate steep downhills, pass through verdant forests, and admire the beauty of the Suha River. We can take a refreshing swimming break in Suha River, explore the bridge, waterfalls, and caves along the river. Later, we'll embark on a special equestrian climb up the Swallow Rock.

Afterward, we'll head to Labova of the Cross for a late lunch at a traditional guest house and restaurant. Before our afternoon ride, we'll visit the Church of Labova of the Cross, one of the most significant churches in the country. Built by Justinian the Great in 554, this church served as the venue for his marriage to his wife, Teodora. The villagers have preserved her wedding dress for centuries. The monument was reconstructed in the 10th century and features an old wooden iconostasis adorned with floral and symbolic animal scenes.

We'll conclude the day with a two-hour ride to reach Libohova, a charming town nestled at the foot of the Bureto Mountain. The town boasts an ancient settlement that flourished in the 17th century, becoming a vital commercial center. During the afternoon, you'll have the option to take a leisurely stroll, visit Libohova's castle, explore a Bektashi cult object, or pay respects at the tomb of Ali Pasha's sister, Shanisha. We'll spend the night in a local family's house and savor delicious local cuisine.

  • Riding hours: 5

Day 11

On this day, we'll embark on a shorter riding adventure. In the morning, we'll ride through rolling hills and the picturesque Drino's valley, crossing a few water streams. Afterward, we'll conquer a steep hill to reach Antigonea National Park, where we'll stop for a visit. Antigonea, built by King Pyrrhus in 295 BC and named after his first wife Antigona, showcases ancient ruins steeped in history.

After the break, we'll continue riding for another hour to reach the stables, where you'll experience the joy of releasing your horses and bidding them farewell. A picnic lunch prepared by our last hosting family awaits in the village of "Asim Zeneli", a short 5-minute drive from the stable.

Later, we'll return to Gjirokastra and stay at the same hotel. For our farewell dinner, we'll gather at a small restaurant in the old Bazaar. If you'd like, we can conclude the evening with a drink at a popular bar.

  • Riding hours: 3.5

Day 12

After breakfast at the hotel, you'll be transferred back to the Tirana airport, marking the end of our equestrian adventure.

Location

Vjosa “the blue heart” of Europe along its entire course of over 270 kilometers is untamed, free-flowing and characterized by beautiful canyons, braided river sections, islands, oxbows, and meandering stretches. Vjosa River is one of the most complex habitats for spawning fish and migratory birds.

Food

All meals from the dinner of day 1 until the breakfast of day 12, as well as water and drinks during the meals, are included in the package. Most of the dishes are homemade while fruits, vegetables, and meat come from local gardens and farms.

The following meals are included:

  • Breakfast
  • Lunch
  • Dinner
  • Drinks

The following drinks are included:

  • Water

The following dietary requirement(s) are served and/or catered for:

  • Regular (typically includes meat and fish)
If you have special dietary requirements it's a good idea to communicate it to the organiser when making a reservation

What's included

  • 9 riding days
  • 11 nights accommodation
  • Meals from dinner of day 1 until breakfast of day 8
  • English speaking guide, second guide (if more than 4 riders)
  • Water and drinks during the meals
  • Luggage transport by car from destination to destination

What's not included

  • Airfare
  • Airport transfers
  • Entrance tickets to monuments or parks
  • Lunch on day 1
  • Extra drinks
  • Meals, drinks, and extra activities on day 8, which is a free day
  • Other services or expenses during free time
  • Personal expenses

How to get there

Recommended Airports

Arrival by airplane

Please arrange your flight to arrive at Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (TIA). Roundtrip transfers from Tirana are not included in the price but are available at an additional cost of 90 EUR per person (45 EUR each way. The journey will be three to four hours long (225 kilometers).

Caravan Horse Riding Albania organizes two transfers from the Tirana Airport every Saturday, the first one at 12:30 p.m. and the second at 14:30 p.m. Flights that fit Caravan Horse Riding Albania normal transfer’s schedule should be planned to arrive no later than 15.00 p.m. and departures not earlier than 12 o’clock (midday)

Riders that arrive in Tirana one day in advance can plan to arrive at the airport for the transfer at 12 o’clock or 15 p.m. Caravan Horse Riding Albania can’t organize transfers from Tirana. It is very easy and cheap to reach Tirana Airport by bus. There is a bus every hour starting from the center of Tirana (behind the opera palace).

Private transfer from or to Tirana:

  • 1 person: 140 EUR (one way)
  • 2 persons: 70 EUR each (one way for both)
  • 3 persons or more: 55 EUR per person one way

Note: Riders can book a private transfer if it is impossible to book flights that fit Caravan Horse Riding Albania's normal transfers schedule.

The meeting point is also available at Saranda Port. From Corfu International Airport (CFU), you may take a boat to Saranda Port. Transfers are not included in the package. The cost from Saranda Port to Gjirokastra is 40 EUR (return) per person, the distance is 64 kilometers or one hour.

Caravan Horse Riding Albania can organize transfers based on the ferries’ timetable for 2022. Normally one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Airport: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza Airport transfer available: Tirana International Airport Nënë Tereza (US$ 76 per person) Additional charges may apply. You can request this in the next step.

Cancellation Policy

  • A reservation requires a deposit of 20% of the total price.
  • The deposit is non-refundable, if the booking is cancelled.
  • The rest of the payment should be paid on arrival.

Value for money
Accommodation & facilities
Food
Location
Quality of activity
12 days / 11 nights
from --
Pricing information
  • Single Supplement

It may be possible to pay for a single supplement on the first and last nights of the trail but riders must be prepared to share accommodation on the other nights. Single supplement, if a single room is provided, is 20 EUR per night, paid on-site directly to Caravan Horse Riding Albania.

  • Small-Group Supplement

Please note that the prices below may incur a small group supplement. This is applicable only if 4 riders are booked for the ride. If at the time of departure, more than 4 riders are booked, the small group supplement will be deducted from the balance. Small group supplement is 132 EUR per person.

Wednesday October 16, 2024
(12 days / 11 nights)

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